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First, woman’s identity stolen – then the nightmare began


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    MOBILE, Alabama (WALA) — When people think of identity theft, they often see images of sophisticated computer manipulations and online chicanery.

But identity thieves still get sensitive information the old-fashioned way.

That was the case for a Mobile woman, who said she has spent the better part of almost two years talking to credit ratings agencies and keeping up with credit cards issued in her name.

“The Mobile police were excellent,” she said. “It took over a year, almost two years to see that this woman was arrested.”

FOX10 News agreed not to identify the victim or the woman accused of stealing her identity. But FOX10 News verified the victim’s account with records in Mobile County Circuit Court, where the defendant has multiple charges pending.

“Someone stealing your identity is one of the worst things that can happen to you,” said Monde Donaldson, vice president of the Better Business Bureau of Central and South Alabama. “And it can go on and on for years. And you may have great advocates with your bank or – but you still are going to be suffering, year after year.”

Donaldson recommended that people destroy credit card offers, old bank statements, doctor’s office records and other documents with names and other sensitive information. FOX10 News, Gilmore Services and Navigator Credit Union are sponsoring a shred event at the station on Satchel Paige Drive for people to drop off those kinds of documents. The event will run from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Even vigilance cannot guarantee someone will not take advantage of you, though. The Mobile victim’s ordeal began not when someone hacked her online account or broke into a credit card database. It happened when the victim gave her personal information to an office worker at a company she was doing business with.

The woman said became suspicious when she got a letter from Wells Fargo.

“I had never, never banked at Wells Fargo,” she said.

The woman said the “congratulations” letter informed her that her credit card application had been approved and that it had sent the credit card to an address where she never had lived.

The woman said she never would have suspected the defendant in her case.

“She was young. She was well-groomed. She was intelligent,” she said. “And she knew how to use the internet.”

Donaldson, the Better Business Bureau executive, said she is familiar with the woman’s case and sees similar scams all the time.

“Identity theft is actually one of the fastest-growing crimes in America today,” she said. “So people can still steal your wallet, still pick up things off your out of your mailbox, things like that. But it’s gotten much more sophisticated through texts, emails, phishing scams, and people are going to try and get your information no matter what, however they can.”

Mobile County Chief Assistant District Attorney Keith Blackwood said his office has a dedicated prosecutor who handles white collar crimes. Still, he added, those cases are among the hardest to investigate and prosecute – especially if the FBI is not interested in pursuing federal charges.

“When you have a tremendous amount of financial records that you’re pouring through for a case to try to establish some kind of fraud, you have very limited resources, especially here on the state side, for those cases,” he said. “It can be very difficult.”

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